A recurring nightmare can be painful. Ted Avila has become an expert on this subject. He repeatedly feels every possible physical and emotional pain from a brutal impalement through his heart with an odd, ancient blue sword.
There is no escape for him. The nightmare has become more persistent, yet he refuses to tell anyone. When he materializes standing in the Geneva lab wearing his black uniform and boots, he is unnerved by a full panic attack. Next to him is Doctor Lana Onakea.
It is the year 2285. “Fucking nightmare,” he says aloud on the verge of emotional collapse.
“No,” she says. “You and I are actually here in my lab together.”
He shakes his head “no” while he reaches up with both hands to convince himself by touching his chest that the blue sword is not still sticking through him.
She disregards his odd behavior and says, “You and Mr. Wauneka dematerialized just a few moments ago. I presumed you were retrieved back to base. Then you immediately rematerialize by yourself here with me.”
“Ah, shit,” he says.
“Something wrong, Agent Avila?” she wants to know.
“You do have a way to interact in text format with Eduardo, right?” he asks.
“That’s classified,” she replies.
“Eduardo, himself, told me, Doctor Onakea,” he says. “So, don’t play games with me. I’m really stressed out here today. I just may snap at any moment from the pressure I’m feeling.”
“You’ve had direct contact with Eduardo?” she asks.
“Of course,” he says. “Many times.”
“What does he look like?” she wants to know.
“I thought so,” he says aloud, but not for her. “Eduardo lied to me about interacting with you, screen-to-screen. Like he showed you his face. What a surprise. I should’ve known that a machine is capable of lies.”
“Why did Eduardo send you back here to my lab so soon?” she asks.
He replies, “Yeah, well that’s the problem. I don’t think Eduardo has anything to do with my being back here.”
“What are you talking about?” she asks with anger building in her.
“Calm down,” he says. “I am only speculating. But, I can tell you that base has experienced serious problems sending agents back in time here to your lab. Eduardo told me. They lost many agents trying to send agents here to your lab. All of them were missing in action. All presumed dead.”
“I wasn’t aware of that. When did this happen?” she asks with growing fear.
“Well,” he responds, “It’s difficult to express this. But, the only conclusion is the alien life apparently has been preventing agents from being sent here to your lab. Do you understand what I am telling you?”
She remains silent and fearful.
“You injected Vincent Wauneka and me with something. What exactly was it?”
She continues to remain silent, but her face reveals that her level of fear is starting to increase.
“The two of us arrived back at base. We were physically unharmed. But, we arrived 168 years into the future from now, 2285, ” he says. “Vincent and I seem to have memories of experiencing multiple returns back to base. Different outcomes each time. One thing remains constant: They are shocked to see us. Needless to say. They had considered us missing in action. Presumed dead. They told us it was the year 2453. And that brings me back to my question: What exactly did you inject us with?”
Doctor Onakea looks very uncomfortable and upset, but she says nothing to Ted Avila.
“Alien life,” he says to her. “That’s the only possible explanation. Why did you do this to me? I’m sure that’s caused the recurring nightmare I’ve had. Run through by an ancient blue sword. Incredibly painful.”
“You’re freaking me out,” she says to him. “Don’t mind admitting that to you.”
“Yeah,” he replies, “I’m familiar with that feeling. The only possible explanation I have is that the alien life you injected Vincent and me with is now in control. Thanks a lot for that. It is the only plausible explanation of how he and I traveled forward in time. On multiple timelines with different outcomes. And, now I’m fairly convinced that the alien life has not transported me back here to Switzerland just so I can enjoy some fine chocolates or perhaps find an advanced timekeeping device to wear on my wrist.”
Doctor Onakea says, “You’re very angry, Agent Avila. I see that. You’re not going to kill me, are you?”
Ted Avila cannot answer Doctor Onakea because he materializes dressed in his all-black base uniform inside a time travel chamber deep inside the moon. He is completely drenched through his uniform in the thick orange propulsion liquid. The chamber opens with any of the whooshing sounds to which he had grown accustomed.
When he steps out into the time travel base, he is met by Vincent Wauneka, who is dressed in the green moon base uniform and wearing black boots.
“That damn orange liquid smells worse than the white one ever did,” Ted Avila says as he frowns in discomfort.
“When I saw you dematerialize from our bed a few minutes ago, I hurried here to the time travel hall right away,” Vincent Wauneka says. “Good to see you, Teddy.”
“Yeah,” Ted Avila says as he hugs Vincent Wauneka. “I am happy to see you, too. When did I leave?”
Vincent Wauneka says reassuringly, “We both just got back here to base yesterday. They told us it was the year 2453. We got temporary quarters from them. Then, you dematerialized this morning as we were waking up.”
“Need to talk with Eduardo right away,” Ted Avila says.
Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka sit in two chairs in their quarters and look at Eduardo’s image on the wall screen. “And that’s my conclusion,” Ted Avila says to Eduardo. “I believe that when Doctor Onakea shared with MMDI her discovery of the alien life, that one event set in motion all the changes in the timeline that we know today. She injected the alien life into Vincent and myself. We need to do something.”
“Do you feel any differently now?” Eduardo asks. “By that I mean, now that you are aware of having been injected with the alien life?”
“Physically, no,” Ted Avila answers quickly. “Emotionally. I don’t know. I’m really angry that this happened. Recurring nightmares since then. I wonder what will happen to Vincent and me.”
Vincent Wauneka remains silent, but his face reveals how concerned he feels.
“We need to undo all this, Eduardo,” Ted Avila says. “Is it true that the alien life only has interfered with certain missions?”
“Yes,” Eduardo answers.
“Let’s presume just for argument’s sake that the alien life interferes only with time travel that is linked to Doctor Onakea. Or, more specifically, time travel linked to her sharing with MMDI her discovery of the life form.”
“What are you suggesting?” Vincent Wauneka asks Ted Avila.
“I believe that there may be a way,” Ted Avila says. “I believe that if we could alter the timeline in the past so that the knowledge of the life form is not shared with MMDI, then we would have repaired the timeline, so to speak. All those 800 agents would never have to die. We would never be injected with the alien life. And the two of us would never be sent forward in time by the alien life. We would never experience multiple outcomes.”
“But,” Eduardo says, “Let’s say we sent an agent back in time. Let’s say we send you on a mission to change the timeline so that the existence of the alien life remains unknown. What if you never materialize at your intended destination? I cannot justify sending one more man to his death.”
“Eduardo,” Ted Avila continues: “Vincent and I just want to go home. We do not belong here. We really need to go back to our home century.”
“The risk of attempting to send you both back is too great, Mr. Avila,” Eduardo says solemnly.
“I am volunteering to be the one you send back,” Ted Avila says. “Send me back to change the timeline so that the knowledge of the life form is never shared with humanity. I believe that our best chance would be for you to send me back to interact with you in past. To a time before Doctor Onakea becomes known to you. Before she shares her discovery with you about the alien life. Technically, that mission would not be at all connected to Doctor Onakea because you would not yet have come to know her. All I have to do is convince you in the past that you must not act upon any future discovery of the alien life. That way, time travel would continue with interference. All those agents would never die. After I fix the timeline and come back here, you can send Vincent and me back to our home century.”
“I support what Teddy is offering to do,” Vincent Wauneka says quickly. “We must try this, Eduardo. If Teddy never comes back, then you can send me as a backup. Either way, we each are doing something productive to get us out of here.”
“You both dislike it here that much?” Eduardo asks.
“This is not home,” Ted Avila says. “This is MMDI. But, to us, this is some futuristic version of MMDI. We don’t belong here. We will never be able to fit in.”
Ted Avila is seated inside one of the time travel chambers dressed in a green uniform with black boots. Vincent Wauneka watches him from outside the blue glass and gives the time travel agents’ traditional two-index-fingers-pointing-upward signal. Ted Avila becomes drenched in the orange propulsion liquid that shoots up from the floor of the time travel chamber and splashes over him completely. Then he dematerializes from inside the time travel chamber. Vincent Wauneka drops his head in sorrow as tears form in his eyes.
Meanwhile, Ted Avila, who is dressed in his green uniform and black boots, is drenched in orange propulsion liquid materializes elsewhere. He is frozen, motionless about one meter above a gray floor in a circular room exclusively lighted from above. Suddenly, he falls to the floor on his butt while the orange liquid splashes down around him in a shallow puddle. “Another soft landing on the moon,” Ted Avila says as he looks around the area where he has landed. He gets to his feet and discovers that he is exactly where he expected to be: He is at the elevator door in Baja Clavius.
“Hey, Eduardo,” he calls out. “Are you decent?”
The overhead lighting increases in brightness. On one of the walls by the elevator door a rectangular screen appears. On the screen you see a head and shoulders perspective on Eduardo, who says: “Mr. Avila, how did you get in here to Baja Clavius? This sector is classified and sealed off. Shall I place you in a containment unit?”
“No, wait. You sent me here, Eduardo, from the future,” Ted Avila explains. “A future version of you gave me the following to say aloud to you to authenticate: Alpha. Alpha. Avila-Six. Delta. Forty-Four. Sigma. Sixty-six.”
“Highly unusual, Mr. Avila,” Eduardo replies. “I am the only source for that authentication code, so you are cleared for entry here.”
“Eduardo, I learned from you on previous visits here to Baja Clavius that you exist within a vast network of powerful computers down here,” Ted Avila says. “You told me that your memory systems allow you to have knowledge of people and events within alternate timelines, even after agents go back in time and make changes. You can track all changes made to timelines. Today I am here to update you regarding such changes. This is most urgent.”
“I understand,” Eduardo says. “Please proceed.”
“Vincent Wauneka and I have gotten stuck in an alternate timeline,” Ted Avila explains. “I am here to see about changing that timeline with your help. The lives of hundreds of MMDI agents are in jeopardy.”
“How exactly are so many lives of our agents in jeopardy?” Eduardo asks.
“I have no way of knowing whether your memory already contains what I came here to tell you, Eduardo,” Ted Avila says. “But, this concerns classified information that I am not supposed to know.”
Eduardo replies calmly, “I am unable to discuss classified materials with you, Mr. Avila.”
“Yeah, I knew you would say that to me here today,” Ted Avila admits. “That future version of you who sent me back in time to this moment took that into consideration. He gave me another code to give to you verbally. I was instructed to deliver the second code and in doing so, you here today would be able to help me.”
“I understand,” Eduardo says. “Please proceed.”
Ted Avila clears his throat and says slowly and deliberately, “The code is as follows: Five. Four. Three. Clavius. Eight. Zero. Five. Orontius. Seven.”
The screen on which the image of Eduardo appears begins to flash for a few seconds, then it goes completely dark. Ted Avila is left alone in the circular room with very low overhead lighting. He grimaces in anticipation of what is to come. The light shuts off suddenly, plunging the circular room into total darkness.
Ted Avila opens his eyes in response to the light coming back on over his head in the circular room where he had been interacting with Eduardo on a computerized screen. The screen remains dark. “Shit. I fucked up, didn’t I?” Ted Avila asks aloud.
The image of Eduardo reappears on the screen. He is smiling reassuringly. “Hello, Mr. Avila. I have accepted and processed the code that you presented to me here today.”
“What’s going on, Eduardo?” Ted Avila asks with fear in his voice.
“This is a bulletproof thing. I guess that’s how you would put it in colloquial language,” Eduardo explains. “You must have proven yourself to the future version of me in ways that were beyond question or challenge.”
“Am I in some kind of trouble with you again?” Ted Avila asks.
“No, not at all, Mr. Avila. But, I have accepted and processed the code you presented to me here today,” Eduardo says calmly. “This has set in motion certain changes that cannot be altered. It’s a one-way process.”
“I sure don’t like how that sounds, Eduardo,” Ted Avila admits.
“The future version of me gave you the code,” Eduardo explains. “Embedded in the code was all the data that future version of me wanted you to share here today with me. Because I have processed the data from that future version of me, I am now fully aware of what your mission here today to Baja Clavius was all about. I can tell you officially that you have successfully completed your mission today.”
“You know about Vincent Wauneka and myself having traveled forward in time one hundred sixty-eight years?” Ted Avila asks.
“Yes, of course,” Eduardo replies. “And I am now fully aware of all the information about the discovery of the alien life and the interference with MMDI time travel operations. I have to inform you, Mr. Avila, all of that remains classified, and we cannot discuss that here today.”
“Fine,” Ted Avila says. “I did what I came here to do.”
“Yes, you have successfully completed your mission, Mr. Avila,” Eduardo repeats. “But, due to the fact that both you and Mr. Wauneka have been given knowledge of highly classified information, there is a protocol that must be followed next.”
“I don’t like how that sounds, either,” Ted Avila admits.
“Relax, Mr. Avila,” Eduardo says with yet another reassuring smile, “This you will see as a positive outcome. The protocol is codenamed ‘Exodus,’ and it is extraordinarily rare at MMDI. So rare, in fact, that it has never been used before. Both you and Mr. Wauneka have earned the special benefit of being paid by MMDI into the future for as many years as you shall live. But, neither of you may have any contact with this agency or work on time travel missions ever again.”
“Neither of us has the choice to remain working here at MMDI?” Ted Avila asks.
“That is correct,” Eduardo says. “Continuing to work as MMDI agents is just not an option for either of you.”
“Will you being scrubbing our memories?” Ted Avila asks.
“No. You both get to keep all that you have. Unchanged. You both are healthy young men, who right now are around age thirty. Your actual chronological ages remain irrelevant.”
Ted Avila says to Eduardo: “This may be classified, but, I must bring it up. Vincent and I were told that all the cellular damage every MMDI agent experiences from repeated time travel mission has been reversed by the life form inside of me and him. No damage can be found in our cells now. Our bodies also somehow were restored to their exact physical conditions prior to our first time travel missions. Our ageing somehow has been slowed down by the life form that flows in our blood now. Ten or twelve years will pass, but we each of us will age as though only one year has passed.”
“Classified information, Mr. Avila,” Eduardo says abruptly. Then, he smiles and admits, “I cannot discuss any of the details with you. But, I will confirm all of it is true as you have just expressed it to me here today. You and Mr. Wauneka get to leave MMDI with your current physical and mental conditions intact and unaltered. MMDI will send you to Earth and continue to provide you both with a high level of financial support for the remainder of your lifetimes.”
“What’s the catch?” Ted Avila wants to know.
“This is one instance where there is no catch,” Eduardo explains. “No surprises. No strings attached, as you would say using your slang.”
“I am not ashamed to admit, Eduardo, that I feel very tired,” Ted Avila says. “I feel spent. This has been a strenuous ordeal for me and for Vincent. One of the last things I heard him say before I came here on this mission today was that he wanted to go home.”
“Home, as in the Navajo Nation?” Eduardo replies.
“Yeah, I suppose. Or nearby in the Desert Southwest. That’s also where I would pick if given the choice,” Ted Avila says.
“Good. You have just made your choice,” Eduardo announces. “I will send you and Mr. Wauneka to Monument Valley as your starting point. You will be living in the present day. A few hours in the past from now in the year 2290. You two can figure out the rest once you’re there. You both will have electronic access to financial support from MMDI for as long as you live. You do not have to stay together to continue receiving complete financial support. But, neither of you will never be able to return to MMDI or ever have any contact with anyone from this agency.”
“What about the alien life?” Ted Avila asks. “Is it still inside of me and Vincent, too?”
Eduardo says: “Let me explain. In the future version of base, Mr. Wauneka will vanish once I retrieve him to send you both to Monument Valley. My future self will have no choice but to conclude that since it was he who gave you the authentication code, you and Mr. Wauneka have been processed out using the Exodus Protocol. I imagine you and Mr. Wauneka had little interaction with other agents while you were there in the future, so they will not notice you both have gone. And, here in the present day, the agents at base will only know that you and Mr. Wauneka were each sent on yet another mission. Most agents do not think about the arrivals and departures of agents at the time travel chambers like you and Mr. Wauneka do. Your brains are different now. That is partly why you both have to leave MMDI. Nobody has ever done what you and Mr. Wauneka are about to do.”
“You didn’t answer my question, Eduardo. About the alien life.”
“I have many powers here at base, Mr. Avila. Technology enables me to do things that human can never do. And no other device ever invented by man can do what I can do. But, I lack the technology to alter your DNA or Mr. Wauneka’s DNA. It really is that simple.”
“So we both will carry the alien DNA inside us until we die?”
“You changed the timeline,” Eduardo replies. “Perhaps it is best to think that you changed what happened in your past. It would make sense to perceive that you and Mr. Wauneka never went on that mission to Switzerland. You two never met Doctor Onakea and were never injected with alien DNA at all.”
“Rather paradoxical answer,” Ted Avila says as he drops his head with an unexpected feeling of sadness.
“This is our last goodbye,” Eduardo says. “I bid you farewell, Mr. Avila. I want to admit that you were my favorite agent. I am especially grateful for all the lessons I have learned from you during our time together.”
Ted Avila smiles like he knows Eduardo would want him to smile. But, Ted Avila does not trust what Eduardo has said. The circular room is overtaken by a bright orange light where Ted Avila once stood.
Orange light fades away to reveal the inside a hotel room in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park with a large window that provides an unexpectedly dramatic view of the moon. Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka are naked together at that window. What captures their attention is the immensity of the full moon so apparently close to Earth that they can count the craters together.
The next morning while inside the large glass-enclosed hotel shower in Monument Valley, Ted Avila deliberately swallows water as it splashes on his face. He smiles at the delicious taste of such a naturally untreated resource. Then, he starts coughing very loudly, which awakens Vincent Wauneka who had been asleep on the other side of the wall in the hotel room. The naked Navajo hurries to the bathroom to see if his partner needs help. But, when Vincent Wauneka opens the door to the bathroom, he sees the empty shower with the water running. Ted Avila has vanished!
Three seconds later, Ted Avila reappears in the Monument Valley hotel shower where the water is still running. He is crouched down on the shower floor, glancing upward. He sees Vincent Wauneka standing there in the bathroom looking very worried. Ted Avila coughs to clear his throat and forces himself to say aloud, “Moon. Love you.” Then, Ted Avila vanishes a second time. Vincent Wauneka walks back to the hotel room and sits down on the large bed with a dazed expression on his face.
How can a man simply vanish while taking his morning shower? This is the question that one very upset Navajo keeps going over and over in his head as he fears for the worst for his partner.
Ted Avila is alive, but he is very far away from Arizona. To be specific, he has traveled over 238,900 miles from that expensive hotel in Monument Valley. He is standing naked in another shower getting soaked by very different water. He is in the crew shower facilities at the top-secret MMDI base beneath the crater Clavius.
He knows that he is not supposed to be here. The MMDI protocol codenamed “Exodus” certainly meant that he and Vincent Wauneka were given a permanent separation from the agency and from time travel. “Why did they bring me back?” Ted Avila says aloud softly to himself as he stands beneath the soothing hot water rushing down upon him in the crew shower facilities.
He sees another naked man in the showers, who is a considerable distance away at the far end of the room. The young man is facing away and cannot see that Ted Avila has materialized here. Without warning, Ted Avila’s body is overtaken with severe pain. He crouches down to the floor of the shower in agony. When he unexpectedly reappears in the Monument Valley hotel shower in front of Vincent Wauneka, Ted Avila knows he must communicate what happened in as few words as possible.
Ted Avila awakens on his back atop a thin floating slab of synthetic metal. He is covered up to his waist in a silvery sheet inside the MMDI medical facility. A familiar older gentleman who is wearing a completely white medical uniform and thick black boots walks up next to him. A thick mustache that is frosty white like his long, curly hair punctuates the man’s friendly face. Ted Avila remembers him clearly because he saw him in person only last week. This man is medical doctor William Oswald and he speaks with a comforting British accent. “You were supposed to be in Monument Valley, Mr. Avila. With Mr. Wauneka,” he says.
“Doctor Oswald,” Ted struggles to say. “Something went wrong. Don’t know how I got here.”
“One of our agents found you in the crew showers,” the doctor replies. “You were nearly unconscious.”
“That’s pretty accurate,” Ted Avila replies.
“We sent you to Geneva with Mr. Wauneka,” Doctor Oswald says. “To the year 2285. What happened?”
Ted Avila’s face is overtaken by a very worried look. “Oh, shit,” he says.
“Somehow, you materialized in the crew showers,” Doctor Oswald says. “I have never seen such a thing.”
Ted Avila replies, “You sent Vincent and me back in time to 2285. We got to Geneva. We met the person we were supposed to meet there. But, then things did not go so well.”
“What do you mean?” Doctor Oswald asks.
“Vincent and I were on a classified mission,” Ted Avila quickly replies.
“Of course,” the doctor replies. “I don’t need to hear any of the mission details. I just want to understand how you came back here to base by yourself.”
Ted Avila continues: “That mission in Geneva. Vincent and I completed it successfully. We were retrieved. We arrived here back at base. Inside two separate time travel chambers like we expected would happen.”
“Your memories must be faulty, Mr. Avila,” Doctor Oswald declares firmly. “You are the only one who has returned to base from Geneva.”
“Listen to me, Doc,” Ted Avila says. “My memories are just fine. There are multiple times. Different outcomes. The mission was to 2285. When Vincent and I materialized back here at base, we were told a future version of you that that it was the year 2453.”
“Traveling forward in time is not possible,” Doctor Oswald replies.
Everyone knows that, yeah,” Ted Avila says quickly. “Laws of physics and all. But, Vincent and I were transported back here. We were told that we had been missing in action for 168. To the both of us, it seemed like we had just been on that mission to 2285 and were retrieved back immediately afterwards. We were unaware of any passage of time. That future version of you told us that we had arrived in the year 2453. You examined us and we were fine. Physically. Shaken up quite a bit, emotionally, however. “I am at a loss to respond,” Doctor Oswald admits.
“Look at it from my perspective. Every person that Vincent and I ever knew was now dead,” Ted Avila explains. “A future version of you was still the base medical doctor. You’re a projection. No worries about ageing. But, the agency simply was not set up to handle the return of two agents who had been presumed dead for hundreds of years. We learned that the agency sent other agents back in time to figure out what had happened. But, all those men were lost and never returned. A total of 850 agents were presumed dead over the span of one the nearly two centuries that Vincent and I were gone from this base! You can image how we both felt shattered emotionally. We felt partly responsible for the high casualties.”
Doctor Oswald asks, “How did that future version of me decide to deal with you and Mr. Wauneka?”
“This is where it gets very complicated, Doc. Vincent and I learned that all the cellular damage every time travel agent experiences from repeated time travel mission has somehow been reversed in us. No damage could be found in our cells. Our bodies also somehow were restored to their exact physical conditions prior to our first time travel missions. Our natural process of growing older somehow has been slowed down. For every 10 or 12 years that passed, he and I would age as though only one year has passed. So, in that future version of this base, Vincent and I were told we had to leave the agency. We were finished as time travel agents. We were sent back in time together to Monument Valley to the year 2290. From my perspective, he and arrived just last night. In a hotel there, just this morning, I was showering. Next thing I’m aware of is that I was retrieved back to base. I somehow materialized in the showers down in the crew quarters.”
“You won’t want to hear this: Logs show that you were not retrieved,” Doctor Oswald says.
“You’re right, Doc,” Ted Avila says softly as he drops his head back down on the metal slab and stares at the mass of synthetic plastic conduits and pipes on the ceiling of the medical facility. “Don’t want to hear this.”
“I’ve completed examining you. No surprises. You are perfectly healthy physically.”
Ted Avila keeps his head rested against the metal slab and sighs with relief. “This base today doesn’t have an intruder alert system?” Ted asks while continuing to stare at the ceiling. “How could I just materialize in here? A top-secret facility like this.”
“So secret that few know about us. We never get visitors. Intruders or otherwise. We don’t need an intruder alert system.”
Ted Avila turns to make eye contact with Doctor Oswald and sees the concern on his face. “Well, I assure you that in 2453, this base has such a warning system. Vincent and I set it off when we were retrieved back to base.”
Doctor Oswald smiles politely, but says nothing.
“Yeah, fine,” Ted Avila replies. “How could you possibly believe a man like me who’s been alive for—? I just can’t do the math anymore. Something in the neighborhood of eighty years? Served on who knows how many time travel missions for this agency. Practically immortal. And, as if that’s not enough, apparently now I can travel without a time machine?”
Again, Doctor Oswald does not respond.
“Hate to ask this, but—. What year is this?”
“It is the year 2295,” is Doctor Oswald’s reply.
“There’s a gap of 5 years between the time when Vincent and I were transported to Monument Valley and this poignant reunion between you and me here right now. I don’t have any memories from those missing years. I just hope we found peace of mind together.”
The doctor replies, “By now, Mr. Avila, you should accept your memory problems are the rule, not the exception!”
“Well, that’s real comforting. You think I might be able to rustle up some decent Tennessee sipping whiskey here at this base?” Ted Avila asks as he sits up on the metal slab and drapes his legs over the edge. “Need to kill some brain cells.”
“Consuming alcoholic beverages does not actually kill brain cells,” the doctor says in an official tone of voice.
Ted Avila glares at the doctor in silence.
“And, you already know the policy here as well as any other agent. We don’t allow any alcoholic beverages, Mr. Avila.”
“What about those fancy purple and orange injectables so popular on Earth in the 2280s? You know, shot right into the jugular,” Ted says as he points to the left side of his neck and moves his thumb like a trigger mechanism.
Doctor Oswald says firmly, “Mr. Avila, we really need to debrief. Immediately. Keep your mind clear.”
“My mind’s not been clear since I first starting working at this fucking place,” Ted Avila mutters under his breath.
“What can you remember before you realized you were in the crew showers, Mr. Avila?”
“I was choking on shower water. Felt intense physical pain. My entire body.”
“The exact sequence, Mr. Avila, please.”
Ted Avila replies with obvious frustration: “I was in Monument Valley. In a hotel room shower. This morning. That shower water made me choke. Was trying to get a taste. You know, the water on Earth tastes better than the water here on the moon. More authentic. No electronic processing.”
“And when you swallowed the water, it made you start choking and caused your body to feel pain?”
“Apparently. Sounds weird, I know. Like my body was rejecting the water I swallowed.”
Doctor Oswald does not respond.
“That’s not supposed to happen, is it, Doc? I was born on Earth. How could my body reject the very water that I drank my whole life on my home planet? You sure you gave me a proper exam?”
“What are you suggesting, Mr. Avila?” Doctor Oswald replies without any defensiveness. How can a computerized interface look like he is showing any human trait such as defensiveness?
“You found no cell damage. My body seems to have been restored to the peak physical condition like it was prior to my first time travel missions. A serious restoration of human flesh in some unfathomable way, don’t you think?”
“As you say,” Doctor Oswald replies.
“Well, yeah,” Ted Avila replies. “Except now we have difficulty drinking the water on our home planet? Is that it? Kind of a major deal-breaker, don’t you think?”
Doctor Oswald does not reply.
“I don’t care that you’re a visual interface, not a human being,” Ted Avila admits. “I’ve grown to like you after all these years. Or centuries. Whatever. I trust you. You have helped me more times that I can count. But, I should not have to tell a medical doctor that water comprises a huge percentage of the human body. You understand where I’m going with this discussion?”
“Yes, Mr. Avila,” Doctor Oswald answers. “Without water, a human will die in a matter of days.”
“It’s about survival,” Ted Avila says firmly. “Vincent and I only want to stay alive.”
“But, I already told you that both you and Mr. Wauneka have been gone from this base for five years. How do you imagine that you survived that long if you cannot drink the water on Earth? I am telling you that it is not possible medically for a human body to reject water on Earth.”
Ted Avila replies, “I guess you must be right. But, I don’t have any memories to help me here. Maybe that’s because to you it’s 5 years, but to me, it’s only 5 minutes that have passed. I don’t understand all the laws of physics in time travel. I cannot account for those five lost years.”
A good-looking, muscular young man wearing the familiar all-black MMDI officers’ uniform and boots walks into the medical facility next to Ted Avila and Doctor Oswald as if he had been standing behind the racks of high-tech equipment. “Perhaps you should turn to me for help with that,” he says in a friendly tone of voice as he approaches the thin floating slab where Ted Avila is seated, half-covered in a silvery sheet. As Ted Avila turns his head toward the MMDI officer, out of the corner of his eye, he observes that Doctor Oswald’s projection is motionless, but still visible in the room.
“Are you also a projection?”
“Flesh and blood. Just like you, Mr. Avila,” the officer admits without smiling. “My name is Zeke Anton. I will take over from the doctor and finish the debriefing session with you.”
“And then you’ll take me upstairs and shove me out naked like this onto the lunar surface?”
“Very brutal way to kill a man, don’t you think? What a vivid imagination you have.”
Ted Avila replies, “I’m a dead man anyhow because my body apparently is rejecting water.”
“Cannot help you there. I’m a full bird colonel, not a medical doctor. I’m the senior officer at this base,” he replies with great authority and machismo in his voice.
“Well, Colonel Anton,” Ted Avila replies, “Never heard of you.”
“Call me ‘Zeke,’” he says quickly. “I took over command of this operation from General Marcus Tagawa. After you get dressed, we’ll go talk downstairs and talk in private in my quarters.”
“So, you’re gonna keep me away from other crew members?”
“Of course,” Zeke answers. “Why wouldn’t I? You’ve been gone for years. Other crew members do not know of you. On the other hand, there is much you know that is unknown to all of them.”
“So, now I’m a security risk. I’m gonna be thrown into quarantine way down below at some classified sublevel for the remaining short span of my life,” Ted Avila says with acceptance as he returns to lying on his back on the floating slab.
Zeke moves closer and slips his large hands underneath the slab. Four circular shapes that are attached by shiny metallic cords from beneath the slab emerge. Zeke removes his hands from under the slab and in just a matter of seconds, forces Ted Avila’s ankles and wrists effortlessly into the four circular shapes that shrink in size, shackling him defenselessly there. The reaction on Ted Avila’s face amuses Zeke and he laughs aloud. “You never saw that coming, did you, Mr. Avila?”
Ted Avila cries out and struggles in vain to free himself. Zeke pulls off the silvery sheet and lets it fall to the floor of the medical facility so that Ted Avila is completely naked lying there on that floating slab. Zeke’s thick right fist slams squarely into his prisoner’s undefended balls. While Ted Avila kicks and writhes in desperation, Zeke bends over Ted Avila’s midsection and applies skillful suction.
Zeke’s large hands and talented mouth control Ted Avila’s manhood completely. He removes his mouth so he can say aloud, “Screen three, playback now.” On a large screen near the floating slab a visual recording appears. Ted Avila recognizes immediately what he sees on the screen and he struggles to get away because he does not want to watch or listen to the playback. Zeke continues to explain: “You will remember many debriefing sessions you had with Tagawa when he was in charge of this agency. I love these logs. I can show you three different camera angles on any recording, see?” Zeke presses a region on a nearby screen to change the camera angles that are viewable on the playback screen. Ted Avila has no choice but to watch and listen.
General Marcus Tagawa: “MMDI has many different kinds of agents. Some go on missions and use sex with other men as part of their mission. It’s very simple. You’re the kind of agent who gets involved sexually with other men. That’s part of your mission. You manipulate men. That’s a particular part of your missions.”
Ted Avila: “Yes, sir. I am with you a hundred percent.”
General Marcus Tagawa: “Other agents have other skills and talents. Their missions are about other things. For them, it’s not always about sex. But, with you, well—. You know what you need to do.”
Ted Avila: “Yes, sir, I do.”
As Ted watches the playback, he thinks about how tight the ankle and wrist shackles feel. But, he also understands what little choice he has as he watched the playback. Ted surrenders without any further resistance to the masterful Colonel Zeke Anton, who goes back to sucking as the playback concludes.
General Marcus Tagawa: “You have special skills—physically and emotionally. I know this from what I’m good at. I know how to use a man sexually to get whatever I want from him. This is the context. I’m like you. Or, you’re like me. Whatever.”
Although he is having trouble breathing at a normal place following his intense orgasm, Ted Avila manages to say, “You think this means anything to me?”
“Usually, that’s what guys tend to say after responding as intensely to my sexual skills like you just did,” Zeke replies with extreme confidence.
“How did someone like you get to be in charge here?”
“Someone like me? Don’t be so naïve, Agent Avila. Maybe your old-fashioned views of morality and acceptable behavior come from spending too long living in the 20th century. You cannot judge others if you behave exactly as them.”
“Tagawa went too far,” Ted Avila responds. “And, you’ve gone farther than he ever did.”
“I got full access to all of Tagawa’s logs when I was being considered to replace him,” Zeke explains. “He never knew that I saw all his recordings. I saw with my own eyes how Tagawa succeeded when he was in charge here by using sex to manipulate men.”
“Yeah, I was there,” Ted Avila quickly says.
“All of us agents are expected to use sex as a tool in our missions,” Zeke says. “You know that. You were good at that. This is why only gay men are chosen to be agents here. I don’t have to explain this to you. You’re a subject matter expert on all this like none other.”
“Where is this all going?” Ted Avila wants to know as he desperately struggles to free himself from the medical restraints.
“Let’s conclude our debriefing session right here,” Zeke replies.
“Like this? With me strapped down and naked?”
“You’ve got nothing you can possibly hide from me,” Zeke says softly as he starts playing with his prisoner’s balls.
“Please, don’t do this to me!” Ted Avila cries out.
“Now I know you’ve got a lot more yet to shoot,” Zeke says. “I can always tell that about a man when I hold his huevos in my hands like this.”
“I’ll do whatever you want,” Ted Avila promises as he struggles. “You haven’t told me what you want.”
“What I want is to play back a segment that was recorded during a mission you and Mr. Wauneka served on,” Zeke says. “Screen two, playback now.” On the screen Ted Avila sees a familiar face of a woman he met in the past.
“I am Doctor Lana Onakea. Welcome both of you to the Swiss Confederation and to my laboratory. You were fully briefed before arriving here?” Vincent Wauneka replies, “You are the one who discovered the life form inside Lunar Blue.”
Ted Avila adds, “And we are assigned to work with you to find out whether we can stop the interference in MMDI time travel operations.”
Doctor Onakea responds, “Excellent. Please watch the monitors to help you follow along in my briefing.” As she talks to the two agents there are videos that appear on her monitors showing them details to explain what she is telling them verbally.
“This laboratory has for several years existed in secrecy far underground beneath the city of Geneva,” she says. “But, you agents are accustomed to working far below the surface, aren’t you? It was last year in October, Twenty-Two Eighty-Four, to be precise, that the first MMDI time travel operations started reporting interference. This was kept secret for obvious security reasons. Agents were sent on missions never knowing that there was any interference.
Ted Avila asks, “Where there any casualties from the interference?”
She replies, “Yes, there were five agents who were lost on missions to the past. They could not be retrieved to the lunar base despite several attempts. They are presumed dead. That is part of what you will endeavor to discover.”
Vincent Wauneka asks, “Were agents who got sent to retrieve them also lost?”
“Yes,” she responds.
Ted Avila quickly says, “Does this mean that Vincent and I are on a suicide mission?”
Doctor Onakea replies, “No, of course not. After I discovered what was causing the interference, I was able to develop a way to shield agents from the interference using an injection.”
“How does it work?” Vincent Wauneka asks.
“Well, the science is complicated, but, in effect I will inject technology into your bloodstream so small that it can travel alongside the life form,” she explains. “The technology is much bigger, of course, than the lifespan, but it easily fits inside the subatomic elements of your blood. I will tell you, however, that this shield has not been tested on humans yet.”
Ted Avila responds, “So, it may not be a suicide mission, but we are like lab rats here.”
“Mr. Avila, please,” she replies. “The work that you are Mr. Wauneka do is vital to MMDI. Every precaution is being taken to safeguard your lives on the missions to which you will be assigned.”
When the playback screen goes dark, Ted Avila says to Zeke, “Yeah, Vincent and I were there in Geneva. Classified mission. We knew there were cameras everywhere.”
“That’s not the point here. What exactly do you think she injected you with?”
Ted Avila stares at Zeke and immediately realizes the purpose of Zeke’s question. “I don’t know. She said it was some sort of shield she had developed against the alien life form flowing in my bloodstream.”
“And, of course, you believed her. Screen two, playback segment forty-one. Cam two.” The playback starts at Zeke’s command:
Doctor Onakea says, “I will inject you both with the shield.”
Ted Avila says sarcastically, “This won’t hurt a bit.”
Doctor Onakea injects Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka one at a time in the neck using an injector that looks like an automatic handgun. The response is identical: Each man recoils violently in apparent agony, drops in a crouching position to the floor with hands positioned at the neck, and remains there writhing for several minutes in obviously intense physical pain.
The playback screen goes dark.
“And that recording is proof that you are an alien life form,” Zeke announces as he waves his right hand in the air. Hs clenched fist fall into Ted’s groin.
Ted Avila cries out in anger and humiliation, struggling to free himself.
Zeke raises his voice and says, “She shot you up with whatever it was to complete your transition! She was working for them. She was the enemy, Mr. Avila. You just never were savvy enough to figure that out.”
“What the fuck are you gonna do to me?”
“Well, you are not solely terrestrial now,” Zeke shoots back. “You’re a hybrid. This agency cannot survive if we allow extraterrestrial life like you to interfere with our time travel operations like you have already done. I must contain you. Probably wouldn’t even die even if I put you outside on the lunar surface because of that super-blue subatomic shit coursing through your veins.”
“Don’t kill me, please,” Ted Avila says, fighting back tears. “I’m not a fucking alien! I’m not what’s causing the interference with time travel operations here. I’ve remained loyal to this agency for hundreds of years! I can help you discover what you need to fight this alien life better than anyone else you’ve got. You know that’s true.”
Zeke stares at his prisoner with intense anger. “Here’s what I know: You got here inside this top-secret base. On your own power. Traveled from the past here. Forward in time. Violating the laws of physics. Using no technology. Therefore, you are a significant threat to MMDI.”
Ted Avila cannot hold back his tears.
“You have an advantage. You know our technology,” Zeke says. “You know that we can only retrieve a man that we send back in time. Can’t just pluck a man from anywhere we want and bring him here from the past. And, forward time travel is impossible! You know all these things. That makes you even more of a threat.”
“Kill me. Or let me go!”
Zeke continues, “We can retrieve a man that we send back in time plus one additional man. Sharing the coordinates. You know what we call it. Used it many times, yourself. How we get new agents here in the first place from Earth. But, forward time travel! You got here without using any hardware. So, now I expect you to use whatever methods are available to you to bring your alien pal Mr. Wauneka to the moon,” Zeke says to Ted. “Or, I will kill you right now with my bare hands.”
As expected, Ted Avila is visibly despondent.
Zeke continues: “I imagine you’re probably wishing that Tagawa was still the man in charge here. He was a saint compared to me.”
“Tagawa got what he deserved. He’s dead.”
“Not going to confirm or deny. But, I have to admit that I learned quite a lot from you. And for that, I must thank you. I have one log showing your true nature and I just love to play back this one over and over. Screen three playback segment eighty-eight. Random cams.”
Ted Avila exhales in complete resignation as he watches the screen. He seems himself, naked, in the crew sleeping quarters. Vincent Wauneka is deeply asleep lying next to him.
“Your previous actions at this base show very clearly who you really are, Mr. Avila,” Zeke says as the playback continues. “You acted deliberately in a homicidal way with Mr. Wauneka in the crew quarters where he was sleeping next to you. It’s all right here in the official log.”
On the screen, Ted moves upward in his rack in the crew quarters where Vincent is sleeping. Ted positions a pillow on Vincent’s chest then very carefully slips his left leg over Vincent so that my midsection is positioned over Vincent’s neck and face with Ted’s bent knees and legs resting squarely on Vincent’s shoulders. Lastly, Ted slowly slips the pillow up over Vincent’s neck and face. He then quickly applies all of his body weight downward onto the pillow to impede Vincent’s ability to breathe.
Vincent reacts defensively to stay alive. He bends both his powerful arms upwards towards Ted in an attempt to remove Ted forcibly from covering his face and nose. A muffled voice can be heard asking, “What the fuck?” Ted increases the downward force of his body onto the pillow by extending his hands and arms upward to the roof of his rack and pushes upward with all the strength that he can muster. All of the downward pressure keeps the pillow exactly where Ted wants it even though Vincent is screaming and bucking life a wild bronco, trying to escape. Ted squeezes his knees together to keep the pillow tightly covering Vincent’s mouth and nose. He removes his hands and arms from pushing upwards against the roof of his rack and leans forward so he can slam both his hands downward directly into Vincent’s groin area under the sheet and blanket. Vincent is surprised and overwhelmed by being punched so hard in the groin that he groans and involuntarily stops fighting back against Ted.
That is the precise moment when Ted returns his hands and arms to the roof of his rack and pushes upward with every bit of muscle power that he can apply. Vincent starts kicking frantically and hitting Ted. After only a few more seconds, he loses the ability to right back. Vincent coughs and cries out in agony. Then, he is suddenly motionless. Ted keeps applying persistent downward pressure upon that pillow by pushing upward against the roof of his rack. He holds in this particular position with a full erection and waits for fifteen minutes to pass for his erection to subside.
“Playback stop,” Zeke says aloud.
“Anybody can be made to look bad by selectively choosing logs to play back,” Ted Avila says.
“Well, that’s a totally profound excuse, Mr. Avila,” Zeke says quickly. “I have personally watched all the available logs. The official record does not lie. I know all the things you’ve done. I listened to debriefing session information from you as well. I also travel in time to learn all I can about the two of you on your missions. I blend in. You never see me there with you.”
“You’ve been stalking Vincent and me!? Colonel, you’re the biggest threat this agency has ever faced.”
Zeke responds, “You have brain damage, Mr. Avila. You cannot be trusted. You remember things that you should not remember. you forget things that you should not forget.”
Ted Avila drops his head back onto the thin floating slab and tightly closes his eyes. He allows his mind to clear as if descending into a deep, self-induced meditative state. He is surprised at how quickly he falls into unconsciousness.
From Zeke Anton’s perspective, Ted Avila simply vanishes from the medical facility. Zeke looks baffled by what he has just witnessed.
When Ted Avila opens his eyes, he feels relieved to discover that he has returned to the comfort and sanctuary of the Monument Valley hotel room in 2290. He is naked, lying on the large hotel room bed next to Vincent Wauneka, who is also naked. When Vincent Wauneka sees Ted Avila, the very dazed expression on his face very quickly gives way to joy and relief. The two men hug each other as if they had been separated for several years. “You were back at MMDI?” Vincent Wauneka asks. “Yeah,” Ted Avila replies, “I thought I’d never see you again. I got there and back without technology. Five years in the future from now. Not sure how I did that.”
“I also thought I would never see you again,” Vincent Wauneka admits as he takes the dominant position on top of Ted Avila. The two men once again share the intense physical and emotional bonding so crucial to their relationship. In the long hallway outside that hotel room, when several other guests walk by the door, the sounds of two men engaging in extremely pleasurable sex coming through that hotel room door are unmistakable.
On the moon in 2295, Zeke Anton cannot process what he has just witnessed. One second Ted Avila is restrained by his ankles and wrists in the MMDI medical facility. Then, one second later, Ted Avila has escaped by disappearing as if by some magical power.
Several hours of exhaustive tests and intensive searches of every possible hiding place throughout the lunar base prove fruitless. Zeke sits at a playback screen and repeatedly replays the video logs of what happened in the medical facility. Each time, his intense anger grows stronger.
A young lieutenant enters and announces himself: “Sir?”
“You better have good news for me, Lieutenant Herndon,” Zeke yells out without turning away from watching the video playback.
“They are together in Monument Valley, sir,” the lieutenant says. “Exactly where Agent Avila reported they were transported from here.”
“I require more precision from you, Travis. You know that,” Zeke says as he turns to glare at the lieutenant.
“Sir, I understand. Tracking them is limited. We only can get a fix on their location once every ten to fifteen hours. All they have to do is move to a new location within that window of opportunity and—.”
Zeke interrupts angrily: “I already know the fucking laws of physics. You’re so useless. Get out of here and leave me alone!”
In the year 2295, Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka are riding together in the small passenger cabin of a jet helicopter flying from Monument Valley towards Las Vegas. “Are we there yet?” Vincent Wauneka asks.
“It’s only 40 minutes or so,” Ted Avila replies. “Why is it that you never developed any patience whatsoever? I need to focus on figuring what we’re going to do.”
“You do not really think our bodies have started rejecting the water here on Earth? We cannot live too long if that is true.” Vincent Wauneka says.
“No, must be a temporary thing. Not really possible that we cannot drink the water, is it?” Ted Avila asks. “There’s got to be some other explanation. Maybe my choking was caused by something else, not the water. Maybe this is how our bodies are getting used to whatever it was we got injected with in Switzerland.”
The helicopter arrives in the Las Vegas Valley just at sunset and descends quickly to a landing pad near one of the more elaborate hotel casinos. The handsome young uniformed pilot enters the passenger cabin from the cockpit and says, “Welcome to Las Vegas, Nevada, gentlemen. The local time is 8:45 in the evening on a Friday night. A great weekend in Sin City awaits you both. Air temperature is 110 degrees.”
“Thanks,” Ted Avila says, smiling. “We’re staying here at this hotel, so we won’t be out in that heat for too long.”
“You only have those small carry-ons?” the captain asks. “Only gym bags? Travel very light.”
“No time for a lot of personal stuff,” Vincent Wauneka says.
“Military guys?” the captain asks.
“As they say in the movies: If we answer that,” Ted Avila says quickly, “We’ll have to kill you.”
The captain laughs because he thinks he has heard a joke. He opens the door of the helicopter so that his two passengers can exit. The unexpected blast of the hot summer air hitting their faces jolts both Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka.
But, in just a matter of minutes, they are inside their hotel room that has powerful air conditioning running way too high. “No view,” Vincent Wauneka says as he presses a button to open the drapes revealing a solid cement and steel wall directly outside their hotel window.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about the view. We’re going to freeze to death in here in a matter of minutes anyway,” Ted Avila replies. “Could you please figure out how to raise the air temperature in here?”
Vincent Wauneka uses a small glass screen near the two large beds. When he presses on the screen, all of the room lights dim suddenly down. “Made it darker at least,” he says with a chuckle. “Not really like the technology we use on the moon.”
“Keep trying,” Ted Avila says.
“Time travel agents always make time for what they need to do,” Vincent Wauneka replies.
“No patience, but somehow you’ve become a philosopher,” Ted Avila observes. “I think I’ve figured one thing out: I don’t think MMDI is going to track what we spend. They will definitely want to preserve as much separation from us as possible. To take care of our financial needs, they connected us both to something called the Madrugada Corporation in Geneva, Switzerland. That’s where our funding comes from.”
“How did you learn that?”
“Just putting things together from what I’ve read printed on the cards they gave each of us,” Ted Avila explains. “Here is yours,” he says as he hands his partner a small credit-card size piece of synthetic material with text and icons on it.”
“We each have to be holding onto these things when we use them so that they authenticate us, right?” Vincent Wauneka asks.
“Yeah, exactly like the cards civilians use every day,” Ted Avila replies. “Well, we are civilians now. These identify us. I think we probably can send or receive messages using these. Just need to touch our card while holding it to a screen whenever we want to connect to the network.”
“We do not know anybody on this entire planet today that we would want to communicate with,” Vincent Wauneka observes. “The agency will not track us with these cards? Monitoring what we do with the funds or where we go and what we buy?”
“No. We’re in the past compared to them. Whatever financial records we may create today won’t be seen by anyone at base except in retrospect. There’s only so much than can do to us, even if they were interested in that level of information about us,” Ted Avila explains. “When I was back at base, I met the guy that replaced Tagawa. A colonel. Real freak of nature. His number one goal is to kill us. Told me so. He isn’t going to care what we do with the funding the agency provided to us. Like that helicopter we hired from Monument Valley. They cannot retrieve us anyway because they didn’t send us here to Las Vegas. They sent us to Monument Valley. I’m guessing the best they can do is merely track us here in Nevada. They would need to send another agent to be adjacent to us physically. And, in theory anyway, they could retrieve one of us with that one agent using shared coordinates.”
“We should expect visitors, then,” Vincent Wauneka says.
“Yeah, but, the thing is: Their ability to get to us is very limited. All of us agents have something embedded in our hip bones that can never be removed. The agency can track us that way. But, even so, they can only get a signal from us once a day or so. I think it’s only every fifteen hours or so. The system never was designed for continuous tracking of agents.”
“We will need to watch for guys they may send from the future,” Vincent Wauneka. “But, we never will know for sure who they are.”
Ted Avila smiles and explains: “We have seen nearly 200 years into the future from now. We have been there, so we already know that the agency will send many agents back in time to learn more about the alien life form we learned about on our mission to Geneva. MMDI wants to learn how to stop the alien life’s interference with time travel operations. But, we know from our visit to base decades into the future from today that all the time travel missions related to investigating the alien life fail. The agency loses 850 agents over the nearly two centuries that we’ve been gone.”
“Do you understand what our connection to the alien life might be?”
Ted Avila explains: “We were in Switzerland visiting that Hawaiian exobiologist. You remember that? Or did they wipe your memories after that mission?”
“Exobiologist?” Vincent Wauneka asks. “I was with you in Geneva. I remember the Hawaiian.”
“Yes, exactly. The Hawaiian. Doctor Lana Onakea. She’s was a scientist with a specialty in life not of our home planet.”
“They did not wipe my memories. I remember everything. Just never heard that word before,” Vincent Wauneka says.
“Doctor Onakea injected us both. You and I will never forget how that felt!”
“Got that right. Said it was a shield against the effects of the extraterrestrial life form.”
“Yeah,” Ted says. “Well, she fucking lied.”
“So, what did she inject us with?” Vincent asks.
“She was not on our side. The injection she shot into us did the opposite of what she said it would do. It accelerated our transition into becoming hybrids. Vincent, what I’m trying to say is: We are only partly human now. Some percentage of us has been taken over by the alien life! It’s flowing in our blood at some subatomic level. For the rest of our lives.”
“You also learn that from what is printed on these cards we got?”
Five years in the future on the moon, Zeke Anton remains angry. “Travis!” he screams at Lieutenant Herndon at a monitoring screen in the main time travel facility.
“Sir,” he replies, “I found them. In Las Vegas, Nevada. In the year 2290.”
“Only a few million people there,” Zeke says, not even trying to be subtle.
“Yes, sir. Finding those two specific men will be extremely difficult given that population.”
Zeke drops his vocal tone to a deeper, more official level, and says, “Then I’ve got to send my very best on this mission. Don’t you agree, Travis?”
“Not sure who you mean, sir,” Lieutenant Herndon admits.
“Don’t be modest. From among hundreds of candidates, I selected you to assist me here in my leadership. I can think of nobody better to send than you, Travis. Got any problems with that?”
“No, sir. That’s not what I meant.”
“Then we’re in agreement. If you find them, I want Mr. Avila to be retrieved as the priority target. He’ll share the coordinates when we retrieve you. But, if you fail, I will leave you there in the past. This will be a one-way trip for you.”
The young lieutenant drops his head, unable to conceal his fear and sadness at what the colonel has said to him.
Before Travis Herndon was promoted by Colonel Zeke Anton to the rank of Lieutenant, he was merely ambitious. He muscled his way in to see the newly-designated leader of the agency, literally. Travis showed off his impressively chiseled upper body by showing up outside Zeke Anton’s quarters in a non-regulation tee-shirt that was at least two sizes too small for him. They got Zeke Anton’s attention. After Travis spent the entire evening in the colonel’s quarters—essentially in sexual slavery—earning the young man a field promotion. As soon as he was designated as lieutenant, he solidified his designated role as a man who would exclusively do the bidding of the very demanding Colonel Zeke Anton. “I’m a dead man,” he says aloud quietly to himself as Zeke leads him down to the time travel chambers for his mission to Las Vegas.
“I’ll send you to the most recent coordinates we had,” Zeke says to Travis as he walks behind him, pushing the young lieutenant not-so-gently forward down the hallway. “Maybe you’ll be resourceful and somehow find them on your own from there. I’ll drop you down into the deep end of one of those oversized Las Vegas swimming pools.
A naked, muscular young man falls from the sky and splashes down in eight feet of shimmering water. A quietly spectacular entrance, don’t you think, lieutenant? Won’t attract anyone’s attention.”
Travis does not answer.
“Maybe you can grab a pool towel once you’re there,” Zeke announces with a chuckle. “As a good-looking, naked gay man in a Las Vegas pool, what do you think your options will be? Any thoughts on that?”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, sir,” Travis responds quietly.
“Use your considerable sexual skills to win over locals, you stupid shit,” Zeke says with intense cruelty.
“I will do my best, sir,” Travis replies as he walks on ahead of the colonel. “I will accomplish my mission, sir.”
“Yeah, well, Travis,” Zeke responds. “If not, this is the last you’ll ever see of me or this base. Here we are at number sixteen. Your favorite chamber to use. Any last thoughts?”
“I will not fail you, sir,” Travis says with utter sincerely, hoping now to win even the slightest favor from the colonel in the last minute.
Zeke points for Travis to enter chamber number sixteen, but he does not say a word to the lieutenant. Travis enters and then turns around to face Zeke, who is not making eye contact. Travis sits down on the glass bench inside the blue glass chamber, and doing so starts a deep whooshing sound that indicates the beginning of the temporal injection sequence.
“I should have cut your balls off, Travis. And made you wear them around your neck in a small leather pouch,” Zeke says to Travis through the blue glass, hoping that the young lieutenant can read his lips. The thick translucent white liquid shoots into the blue glass chamber and covers Travis Herndon completely, concealing the fact that the young lieutenant is in tears because he knows what the colonel said to him. The chamber begins to vibrate wildly as usual. Zeke watches as the white liquid splashes around inside the chamber violently, completely drenching his best time travel agent, who grimaces from the pain inside the chamber. And in an instant, Lieutenant Travis Herndon is gone.
Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka are relaxing at the edge of the hotel’s swimming pool in Las Vegas in the evening, drinking tall tropical drinks that emit a distinctive red glow through the triangle-shaped container. “Not supposed to drink alcohol. Why am I doing this?” Vincent Wauneka asks.
“We’re in Las Vegas,” Ted Avila replies. “Live a little dangerously like people do when they visit here. Maybe the alien life has changed your blood so that alcohol doesn’t affect you like it once did. Just enjoy your drink. I believe that you and I certainly are not the same as we were before the Geneva injections we got. That is why we cough whenever we drink water. We need to enjoy each day of our lives if you know what I mean.”
“If you say so,” Vincent Wauneka answers. “But, are we going to seek revenge against the guy who took over after Tagawa was killed?”
“I certainly would enjoy that,” Ted Avila admits. “But, we need to stay alive. We need to figure out what’s happened to us with what’s in our blood now.”
“What about going to Geneva to see if Doctor Onakea has any answers for us?” Vincent Wauneka asks.
“I thought about that. We certainly can use the cover story to be that we work for Madrugada Corporation. We’re here from the company headquarters in Geneva scouting out suitable locations to open offices here in the United States. But, I don’t think it’s safe for us to return to Geneva,” Ted Avila says. “We certainly cannot trust Doctor Onakea.”
“Where do you think we could be sure we are safe from the agency?” Vincent Wauneka.
“We know that they can track us anywhere in the past,” Ted Avila. “So, no time yesterday is safe for us.”
“What are you saying, Teddy?”
“Our only answer is to live somewhere in the future,” Ted Avila explains. “As long as we travel forward in time somewhere.”
“Traveling forward in time is impossible,” Vincent Wauneka says as if he is telling his partner an immutable truth.
“For the agency, yes,” Ted Avila explains. “Not for us. Their technology only works to and from the past. But, something in my blood—our blood—allows us to travel forward in time.”
A couple of months staying in a casino hotel in Las Vegas seems to agree with the two former MMDI agents. Their physical conditions actually have improved compared to when they first arrived in Las Vegas from Monument Valley. They appear to be more relaxed if judged by the fact that they smile more frequently than usual. Most importantly, their bodies have also kept changing. The fact that they drink water readily every day persuades them that they will live on. But, each man privately considers what other unknown changes they may yet experience.
One hot evening as they are sitting in colorful swim trucks at the western edge of a large outdoor swimming pool, Vincent Wauneka happens to look up towards the top of a row of seven palm trees. “Oh, look at that,” he says while pointing to a naked young man falling out of the air into the unoccupied deep end of the pool.
Ted Avila glances upwards to the Nevada skies and observes what his partner wanted him to see. “So that must be our first visitor who’s tracking us from MMDI,” Ted Avila announces. “You go fish him out of the water and wrap his waist in a towel so his nakedness doesn’t attract attention out here. I’m going back to the room to retrieve our belongings. We gotta check out of this place now. Bring this guy down to the lowest level of the parking garage. Find a corner somewhere down there without cameras everywhere. I will meet you there with our stuff.”
Downstairs in the parking garage, Vincent Wauneka is restraining the young man by holding his arms tightly behind his back. A bright orange swimming pool towel is wrapped around the young man’s waist. Ted Avila approaches, carrying the two gym bags of their belongings, but keeps his distance. “I’m going to keep at least a couple of meters’ distance between myself and him,” Ted Avila. “They could be planning to use shared coordinates to retrieve him and me.”
“What about me?” Vincent Wauneka asks.
“You’re somewhat safe,” Ted Avila explains. “I’m the primary target on this mission. Here, uses this belt to tie his arms.” Ted Avila tosses his partner a dark brown belt from one of the gym bags.
In the parking garage Vincent Wauneka ties the lieutenant’s arms behind his back to one of the thick vertical pipes and then steps away to a safer distance. “I’m not telling you guys anything,” shouts the lieutenant.
“Yeah, well, then shut the fuck up,” Ted Avila says. “We don’t need to know anything from you. I’ve met Zeke Anton, face to face, so I know who I’m dealing with. A real piece of work. I will share something important with you, however.”
“I don’t trust either of you,” the lieutenant shouts.
“Nor should you,” Ted Avila replies. “But, what I’m going to tell you is the truth: The device embedded in our hip bones—all agents’ hip bones—allows base to track us whenever we travel to the past. You knew that. But, after the lessons learned from the missions in which Vincent Wauneka and I revealed the existence of MMDI to the general public, the agency installed a new feature. Something we don’t have in our embedded devices.”
“You’re lying,” says the lieutenant.
“No, I am not,” Ted Avila answers back quickly. “It’s a ‘kill switch’ as they call it affectionately.”
“That’s only a rumor,” the lieutenant replies. “Nobody believes it!”
“Well, I hope a rumor can provide certain comfort to you, lieutenant,” Ted Avila. “You obviously haven’t lived too many years yet. Too young to just die here in this great city of many vices. You never even got to do anything immoral or fun while visiting Las Vegas. Just splashed down into a swimming pool. Kind of a waste of your time—what little you actually have left.”
“I don’t believe you,” the lieutenant says with obvious panic. “Colonel Anton wouldn’t kill me.”
“How does the ‘kill switch’ work?” Vincent Wauneka aloud while pretending to speak in a low voice as if the lieutenant will be unable to hear.
“Signal from base,” Ted Avila explains in a loud voice to terrorize the lieutenant. “Device disintegrates completely after releasing some heart-stopping compound that fully dissolves in the dead agent’s blood. No trace of anything shows up in his autopsy.”
“You’re lying!” the young man shouts out as tears fill his eyes as though he actually believes what he is hearing about the embedded device.
Ted Avila motions for Vincent Wauneka to join him and walk away from the lieutenant. “Hey, lieutenant,” Vincent Wauneka says in an aggressive voice.
“Are you a betting man?”
As expected, there is no reply from Travis Herndon.
Vincent Wauneka adds, “I bet that you will not be able to untie yourself and get outta this parking garage before they throw that kill switch to stop your heart.”
“What makes you think he won’t get away?” Ted Avila asks playfully.
“Very special Navajo knot,” Vincent Wauneka announces. “White guy like him will never figure it out!”
“Well,” Ted Avila says to his partner as he motions again for them to leave. “Security will find him in a little while and release him. Will look like he was the victim of a bachelor party prank. Maybe before we go, you should milk him to make it look like his bachelor party did that to him. More authentic if he’s shot his load into that lovely orange towel he’s wearing.”
Ted Avila and Vincent Wauneka quickly walk away from the lower level of the parking garage. They leave behind the young lieutenant that Vincent Wauneka caused to have a very rapid ejaculation into the swimming pool towel wrapped about his waist. The lieutenant’s futile shouts in humiliation echo through the structure as the two former MMDI agents walk away.
“You really enjoyed milking him, didn’t you?” Ted Avila asks.
“Making a man shoot like that against his will. What is not to like about that? I especially like watching the look in their eyes when they realize they have no choice but to relinquish control. You think he will ever get retrieved back to base?” Vincent Wauneka asks as he and Ted Avila walk together out of the parking garage onto a side street in Las Vegas, just off The Strip, on another hot night in summer.
“Doubtful. We know how the next couple of hundred years will turn out,” Ted Avila says. “All agents who are sent back in time on missions related to the life form never return to base.”
“Poor fuckers,” Vincent Wauneka. “I feel really sorry for all those agents who will die.”
“Putting all those young men into giant death machines on the moon. For what?” Ted Avila replies.
“You think all the others at MMDI know we both are part of that alien life form?” Vincent Wauneka asks as the two men walk on the sidewalk on the Las Vegas Strip. “We are always going to be hunted by the agency. We were just doing our job. Going on missions. We never asked for any of this.”
“I think we should focus on finding answers,” Ted Avila answers. “Need to get to some future time and place. We are not safe here in the present. How do you feel right now?”
“Why do you ask that?” Vincent Wauneka wants to know.
“My throat,” Ted Avila replies. “Feels like something is wrong. Kind of like heartburn. But, not exactly. Stronger. Burns more. Like magma rising inside a volcano about to erupt.”
“We are part alien now,” Vincent Wauneka. “Our bodies are changing. Something rising inside your throat? Are you surprised? Every cell in our bodies probably has already changed!”
“When you’re right, you’re right,” Ted Avila admits.
“Cannot stay here. Out in public like this is too dangerous,” Vincent Wauneka. “What if we suddenly explode in torrent of blue plasma? That would kind of freak out the tourists!”
Personal log of Col. Ezekiel Anton: Log entry #98043.48 — Twenty-six minutes, thirty seconds into the eight hour, Luna Time. Nine, Eighteen, Twenty-Two Ninety-Five. More mess to clean up. Note for the record: Lieutenant Travis Herndon, agent 1055665, gave his life in the line of duty. He failed to complete his mission to 2290. I switched him off when he was in Las Vegas. We never have lost an agent like that. I need to find out why we were unable to retrieve him and how we can fix it or my reputation at MMDI will be destroyed. At the same time, I am faced with the difficult task of searching for those two rogue agents who are out there somewhere in time where I cannot get to them. They likely are going to travel to the future because they can and MMDI cannot. That’s what I would do if I were in their situation. Need to find some other way to reach them. But, they must be eliminated for the safety and security of MMDI. They are, if nothing else, an extraterrestrial threat to planet Earth. So, I must send agents to keep trying to find them. For as long as it takes and as many men as it takes.